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Prosecutors fight Cosby bid to query 2,000 potential jurors

Prosecutors in Bill Cosby's sex assault case in Pennsylvania objected Monday to defense efforts to prescreen as many as 2,000 potential jurors.

They also said in a court filing that the jury should be selected weeks before the scheduled June 5 trial so jurors can prepare to be sequestered nearly 300 miles away from home. And they challenged defense claims that it will be tough to find people without opinions of the longtime Hollywood icon.

In a sometimes caustic court filing, they called that "a cynical view of the potential jurors in Allegheny County."

"Defendant forecasts that jury selection will take weeks; we are confident that it will not," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said, noting that it took just a day to pick jurors for the state attorney general's perjury trial last year.

Cosby, who turns 80 next month, is accused of drugging and molesting a Temple University basketball team manager at his home in 2004, an encounter he calls consensual. He was 66 at the time; Andrea Constand was 30.

Prosecutors had hoped to call a dozen women who have made similar accusations, but the judge will allow just one "prior bad act" witness: a woman who worked for Cosby's agent and said he drugged and assaulted her during a lunch meeting at the Bel-Air Hotel, in Los Angeles, in 1996.

The trial will be held in suburban Philadelphia, where Cosby met with Constand at his estate, but the jury will come from the Pittsburgh area because of pretrial publicity over the past two years. Cosby's appearance at a half-dozen court hearings has drawn a swarm of national and international media.

Defense lawyers have proposed sending a specialized questionnaire to up to 2,000 Allegheny County residents, and to question those who pass muster starting June 5. Prosecutors said Cosby deserves no such "special treatment." They want opening statements to start that day.

The battle over jury selection is just the latest legal maneuvering in the high-profile case. The judge must still decide how much the jury will hear from Cosby's deposition about his long history of extramarital affairs. The next court hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Cosby, a Philadelphia native, broke racial barriers when he became the first black actor to star in a network drama, the 1965 hit "I Spy," a role that earned him three consecutive Emmy awards for best actor. He is perhaps best known for his top-rated 1980s sitcom, "The Cosby Show," which painted a warm portrait of black family life and earned hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.

The Associated Press does not typically name people who say they are sexual assault victims, but Constand has granted permission through her lawyer.

Comedian Gabriel Iglesias in life-threatening battle with his weight

Comedian Gabriel Iglesias has always been on the heavy side–in fact that’s what he’s known for. His punchline is a dig at his own weight problem, “I’m not fat…I’m fluffy.” But now the comedian’s obesity has caught up with him. 

>> Read more trending news

A few weeks ago, he announced on Instagram that he was canceling upcoming shows; saying, “I’m dealing with some serious health and emotional issues.”

Since canceling some tour dates, Iglesias has been working hard to get his weight and diabetes under control. On Tuesday, he posted on social media that he was “down almost 20 pounds since I stopped touring and my diabetes is currently under control with exercise, diet and meds.”

The comedian is hitting the gym hard to lose weight, and he’s honing his boxing skills impressively. He posted a short video on Instagram that shows his technique with the speed bag.

TMZ reported that Iglesias is hitting the gym five times a week for two hour sessions. He is hoping to drop over 50 pounds before resuming his tour. 

The comic is training with Ricky Funez, who is famous for whipping Justin Bieber into shape. Gabriel says that he came to Funez, “a broken, humbled man after I walked away from the road in Feb. and asked him for help.”

He also said that he’s been struggling with “emotional issues,” and it seems that those demons are harder to tame. 

The comic wrote that, “I have some things I need to do for myself b4 I can be in a good place.”

Actress Shailene Woodley reaches deal in pipeline protest

Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley has reached a plea deal that calls for no jail time over her involvement in protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

The "Divergent" star was among 27 activists arrested Oct. 10. She livestreamed her arrest on Facebook.

She initially pleaded not guilty to criminal trespass and engaging in a riot, misdemeanors carrying a maximum punishment of a month in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Woodley signed a court document Friday agreeing to plead guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, serve one year of unsupervised probation and forfeit $500 bond. The agreement is awaiting a judge's approval. Woodley was scheduled to stand trial this Friday.

Opponents of the $3.8 billion pipeline worry about potential environmental damage. About 750 protesters have been arrested since August.

Actress Shailene Woodley reaches deal in pipeline protest

Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley has reached a plea deal that calls for no jail time over her involvement in protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota.

The "Divergent" star was among 27 activists arrested Oct. 10. She livestreamed her arrest on Facebook.

She initially pleaded not guilty to criminal trespass and engaging in a riot, misdemeanors carrying a maximum punishment of a month in jail and a $1,500 fine.

Woodley signed a court document Friday agreeing to plead guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, serve one year of unsupervised probation and forfeit $500 bond. The agreement is awaiting a judge's approval. Woodley was scheduled to stand trial this Friday.

Opponents of the $3.8 billion pipeline worry about potential environmental damage. About 750 protesters have been arrested since August.

Will Cabinet follow Tillerson's lead in media access?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has famously declared himself "not a big media press access person," isn't alone in President Donald Trump's Cabinet. But it's too early to call him a trendsetter, either.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, both with extensive private sector backgrounds, have similarly been press-averse at the beginning of their tenures. Others seem to be following the leads of predecessors. In some cases, it's just too early to tell.

Tillerson's decision not to make room for reporters on the plane for his first major overseas trip earlier this month drew scrutiny because his job is generally considered the most important in the Cabinet and there's a rich tradition of secretaries of state keeping the public informed of foreign policy objectives. He's had little visibility so far and the plane decision is more than symbolic; many of his predecessors and their staffs used that time to answer reporters' questions.

In an interview with the one journalist allowed on the trip, from the right-leaning web site Independent Journal Review, Tillerson said he personally doesn't need media attention.

"I understand it's important to get the message of what we're doing out," the former Exxon Mobil CEO said, "but I also think there's only a purpose in getting the message out when there's something to be done."

With attention paid to Trump's declaration of some media organizations as enemies of the American people, and reporters' jousting with White House press secretary Sean Spicer a near-daily television event, access to Cabinet-level officials can be overlooked.

Precisely because they don't get as much attention, it's important for journalists to understand and explain the work being done, said Nikki Usher, a professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University.

"These offices have tremendous power and most people don't know what goes on in there," she said.

Cabinet secretaries with a private sector background need to understand that they now work on behalf of the people, who have a right to know what these officials are doing in their names, she said.

"Corporate folks are used to not having to account for any kind of public conversations or talk to reporters with the exception of crisis communications or quarterly earnings calls with assessments of the health of their corporations," Usher said. They're used to being insulated.

The billionaire philanthropist DeVos' background is more private sector than public. She was the chairman of Michigan's Republican Party and her husband is the co-founder of Amway. Her lack of education background and support of school choice made her the most controversial Cabinet pick, and she needed the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence to be confirmed.

Perhaps as a result, she's not been shy about avoiding the media.

The department did not announce it when she visited her first school as education secretary. Reporters showed up anyway, tipped by advocacy organizations, but were not allowed in the school. DeVos does not take reporters' questions after speeches and her few interviews were with conservative news outlets. Her public schedule is often not released ahead of time.

Chao has both a public and private sector background, as a banker, former Labor Secretary, director of the Peace Corps and CEO of United Way. She hasn't held a meeting or news conference with reporters since her Jan. 31 Senate confirmation, and hasn't spoken to reporters following public appearances.

Ray LaHood and Anthony Foxx, the two transportation secretaries under former President Barack Obama, met frequently with reporters.

How the Trump appointees interpret their boss' attacks on the press will be watched closely. "The press is not the enemy," said Peter Cook, a former reporter and spokesman for the Department of Defense during the Obama administration.

It's also common for top executives in many fields, for reasons of ego or message control, to keep a tight rein on underlings. Requests to speak to agency heads in the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, have to go through the governor's office.

Here's how some of the other Cabinet offices have been working:

— Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior defense and military leaders continue to take media contingents with them overseas. Mattis and the others hold media availabilities on the trips, although Mattis has not yet gone to the Pentagon briefing room.

—Trump's Homeland Security Department has operated the way others have in the early stages. Its Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch uses Twitter to defend enforcement actions; under Obama, the feed was largely confined to news releases.

—Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs manager, took reporters on his plane to the Group of 20 meeting with finance officials in Germany earlier this month. He's done interviews with business news networks, the Wall Street Journal and the news site Axios.

— The Justice Department under Jeff Sessions, a U.S. senator before his appointment, has handled media interactions much like prior administrations. Sessions' public events are disclosed ahead of time to reporters, and he usually takes questions afterward. He appeared before reporters on the most significant day of his tenure, when he recused himself from any investigation into Russia's influence on the presidential election.

— Former presidential candidates Rick Perry, the new energy secretary, and Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, also are accustomed to dealing with the media. It remains to be seen how being used to — or needing — media attention will play into their new roles.

—Trump imposed a media blackout on the Environmental Protection Agency after taking office that has since been lifted. Top administrator Scott Pruitt has generally tightened media access, although he made news in a CNBC interview this month when he questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is the primary driver of climate change.

___

Associated Press reporters Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Lolita C. Baldor, Michael Biesecker, Alicia Caldwell, Martin Crutsinger, Maria Danilova, Sadie Gurman, Laurie Kellman, Josh Lederman, Joan Lowy and Paul Wiseman in Washington, and David Klepper in Albany, N.Y. contributed to this report.

'The Wanderers' is mission-to-Mars fiction with a twist

In "The Wanderers," a private corporation called Prime Space is financing the first crewed mission to Mars and training three astronauts: an American woman, a Russian man and a Japanese man.

Helen, Sergei and Yoshi will undergo an elaborate, 17-month simulation that will use virtual reality to mimic the round-trip mission to the Red Planet. Attention to detail will include goodbyes to their families, a realistic-feeling launch, an outbound trip through "space" and 30 days on "Mars" — actually an unpopulated area of Utah.

The training mission is called Eidolon. It's a high-stakes test to see how they perform as a team. The ambitious crew must prove they are worthy of the real mission to Mars. The trio will be monitored by corporation observers who will joke that their jobs are as dull as watching "Chekhov in space."

Meg Howrey's novel starts at a Chekhovian crawl, but picks up after 100 pages when the simulated mission gets rolling at last and her research on interplanetary spaceflight can shine.

Her near-future premise is based on Mars500, a real-life experiment completed in 2011 by a six-person international crew. Howrey's Prime Space nods to billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX company. Last week, President Donald Trump signed legislation adding human exploration of Mars to NASA's mission.

In the novel, as the mission adjusts from a 24-hour Earth day to a slightly longer Martian "sol," the crew faces increasingly stressful equipment malfunctions. Their troubles may or may not be part of Prime Space's simulation. Duct tape is employed. Tensions rise.

But the crew must not let the company know that the pressure is getting to them or that they're having bad dreams. Helen, a NASA veteran with three space missions on her resume, continually probes her feelings, wondering if her emotions will feel more authentic on Mars, or if Mars will feel like a simulation.

Rarely does she shed her defenses. In one such moment, an awestruck Yoshi sees Helen for who she really is: "What a large thing it is to be Helen, what infinite space she is," Howrey writes. "And then to be seen by her. As if, just for once, the universe understood him, came up with a name for him, instead of the other way around."

All three crew members worry that their thirst for space exploration has crippled their family bonds. The families left behind are going through some rough times, too. Helen's daughter, Mirielle, struggles in the shadow of her famous space-traveling mom. In separate chapters, she and two other family members experiment with their public identities. Sergei's 16-year-old son nervously explores his sexuality. Yoshi's wife speaks honestly only to a robot.

The family sections give "The Wanderers" more opportunities to play with notions of counterfeits and authenticity, beyond the obvious stage of the simulated mission. Helen doesn't ask anyone at Prime Space to explain her mission's name, Eidolon, but if she'd checked Wikipedia, she would have learned that an eidolon is a phantom in human form. The most famous eidolon appeared in Greek literature as the likeness of another Helen — Helen of Troy.

Is the Eidolon mission all it appears to be? Or more? The unfolding of that mystery launches this plausible space tale into higher realms of enjoyment.

___

Online:

http://www.mhowrey.com/

'American Horror Story' stars discuss potential Trump plot

The cast of "American Horror Story" is opening up about rumors of a season of the series centered on President Donald Trump.

Series creator Ryan Murphy told Bravo's Andy Cohen last month that the seventh season of the FX drama would be focused on the presidential election and mentioned the possibility of a Trump character.

When asked ahead of Sunday's "AHS" event at the Paley Center in Los Angeles, Sarah Paulson told The Associated Press a Trump-themed season doesn't fit what the show has done so far, but "anything is possible if it's what the audience craves."

Cuba Gooding, Jr. adds that he doesn't know for sure, but thinks the rumors are a "red herring."

Kathy Bates says she's OK with it, as long as she's not cast as the president.

'American Horror Story' stars discuss potential Trump plot

The cast of "American Horror Story" is opening up about rumors of a season of the series centered on President Donald Trump.

Series creator Ryan Murphy told Bravo's Andy Cohen last month that the seventh season of the FX drama would be focused on the presidential election and mentioned the possibility of a Trump character.

When asked ahead of Sunday's "AHS" event at the Paley Center in Los Angeles, Sarah Paulson told The Associated Press a Trump-themed season doesn't fit what the show has done so far, but "anything is possible if it's what the audience craves."

Cuba Gooding, Jr. adds that he doesn't know for sure, but thinks the rumors are a "red herring."

Kathy Bates says she's OK with it, as long as she's not cast as the president.

Adele: 'I don't know if I will ever tour again'

Adele fans who didn't catch her on her world tour that's winding down may be out of luck in the future.

The New Zealand Herald reports Adele told the audience during Sunday night's show in Auckland that "touring isn't something I'm good at" and she doesn't know if she "will ever tour again." The concert was Adele's last one before she formally finishes the tour in her hometown of London with four sold-out dates at Wembley Stadium this summer.

Adele sang through heavy rain at the outdoor show in Auckland on Sunday. Photos show her in a drenched dress for part of the concert and also donning a plastic poncho.

She joked that she "just spent two hours in hair and makeup for nothing."

Former White House press secretary Josh Earnest joins NBC

Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has joined NBC News as an analyst, making his debut Monday on the "Today" show.

Earnest was the last of former President Barack Obama's press secretaries, serving in the role from 2014 until the end of Obama's presidency. He worked in Obama's press office throughout his two terms as president.

He joined Obama's campaign as the communications director for his Iowa campaign in 2007.

Earnest will also appear on MSNBC, and was on "Morning Joe" on Monday morning.

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